Many family members have asked us to let them know about this meeting. To blog it seemed the easiest way to pass along the information.
Michael and I met with Brenna's teacher today for the first parent/teacher conference of the year. I met Michael at the school and we walked to the classroom together. We had already discussed - at length - what we wanted to say and how we wanted to say it. We had also decided that Michael would do the talking, because I am not entirely in control of my frustrations at this point.
Brenna's teacher is a very sweet, mid-thirties teacher with about ten years of experience. She's been working at this school for 3 or 4 years. We think she's a fabulous teacher and Brenna loves her to death. So much, in fact, that she cried this morning when I told her she wasn't well enough to go school.
The three of us sat at a half circle table and before we began, she handed us a copy of everything she intended to say. (Great idea, by the way the way!) She started with Brenna's social skills, which were exactly as we expected. Still, it's always good to hear that your child behaves for others the way that you taught her.
As for academics, we worked out a plan that will hopefully lead to more enrichment during school hours. It will involve further testing, once she completes the current round. (They are testing her now to get an idea of her current academic status.) Her resource teacher said that early test results indicate about a third grade reading level. I don't know how much being able to spell the words you can read plays into that assessment. Her biggest weakness right now is writing and we discussed some ways to encourage that both at home and at school. (Envelopes and stamps for Christmas, anyone?) Kindergarten classes begin reading groups this week and we'll watch to see if that provides some of the stimulation she needs. We did talk about math, but for now I'll continue to do that enrichment from home. The classroom review is helpful, though. Math will also be included in the second set of testing.
Overall our meeting went very well. Brenna's class is made up of kids that spanned a very wide spectrum on the PALS test results. (Phonological Awareness & Literacy Screening - basically letter recognition, rhyming, letter sounds, etc.) We completely understand the challenge her teacher faces. In fact, there are several kids who genuinely need the teacher's attention much more than Brenna does. Our county does not begin to differentiate classrooms until fourth grade. (meaning grouping students according to ability) Until then, the teachers work with a wide range of abilities.
Our education system as a whole frustrates me because the kids at the bottom don't get the one-on-one time they need and the kids at the top aren't challenged to their potential. Assessments move very slowly so that, in our case, the year will be half over before we have any supports in place. I'm beginning to understand a little - a very, very little - of what parents who have special needs children go through in attempting to obtain the best possible education for their kids.
I've been asked by many friends and family members over the past two months if we would ever consider home schooling. For right now, the answer to that is no. What Brenna is experiencing at school far outweighs what I could offer here. (P.E. alone is reason enough! They go outside!) Not to mention we'd probably drive each other crazy 3 out of 5 days a week! What we've settled on is essentially a home school/public school combination. She'll go to school and then we'll do a little more when she gets home. To some that might sound a little extreme, but if you know Brenna, you know she loves to learn. She looks forward to that one-on-one time with me, whether its a math workbook, learning measurements in a cookie recipe, or reading our Bibles together. She wants to learn and I'm going to feed that desire as long as it lasts! I think this will work for now.
Now her little brother...that's a whole new ball game.